Strengthening Bolivia’s National Science, Technology, and Innovation System with Learning from Argentina and Uruguay
To increase its limited knowledge, skills, and implementation know-how with regards to science, technology, and innovation (STI) systems, the Government of Bolivia engaged in an exchange with the more experienced Argentina and Uruguay. The Bolivian experts learned the importance of a proper regulatory framework and sectoral collaboration that ultimately helped contribute to the development of a National STI Plan.
The Government of Bolivia recognized its limited knowledge, skills, and implementation capability with STI systems knowing what a large part such systems play in the countrywide commitment to socially inclusive economic diversification. The Bolivian Government supported STI activities as part of a larger developmental agenda in the country due in part to solid evidence that technological advances drive long-term economic growth. However, due to deficiencies in policy, rules, and standards as well as implementation expertise, STI activities were still occurring in Bolivia but in an uncoordinated and unsystematic way. Many different institutions have been implementing independent programs not tied to any larger policy or strategic framework. As such, the Bolivian Government faced the challenge of creating a robust, comprehensive STI plan and system that would help the country realize its ambitions for long-term growth through STI-fueled activities.
The Government of Bolivia requested World Bank assistance in organizing an exchange with Argentina and Uruguay. These two countries represented success cases and prime sources to inform Bolivia’s own national comprehensive STI framework for developing sound policies; effectively assigning resources; and supporting the refunctioning of existing, uncoordinated STI networks.
Bolivian exchange participants included representatives of the Vice-Ministry of Science and Technology and a specialist consultant. From Argentina, the national STI Policy Unit and the National Agency for Science and Technology participated, and Uruguay was represented by the National Agency of Research and Innovation (ANII).
In the early stage of the exchange, participants engaged in virtual dialogues on STI issues and reviewed relevant STI documents. The World Bank supported the participation of Bolivian STI officials in two WBI workshops on innovation in San Jose, Costa Rica, from August 16-17, 2012. During the workshops they developed a Logic Framework and Monitoring Plan that contributed to the national STI policy.
Officials from Bolivia, the consultant, and one Uruguayan official traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for a study tour, February 25-27, 2013. A workshop on operationalization of STI policy at the Polo Cientifico Tecnologico held during the tour helped build understanding of current policy developments. Participants also learned of the history of the Argentine STI Ministry and engaged in a series of meetings to elaborate on the specific work of the various agencies under the Ministry.
The participants traveled to Montevideo, Uruguay, for workshops hosted by ANII from February 28-March 1, 2013. They learned about the ANII’s institutional organization and operational characteristics, including its monitoring and evaluation instruments. They also visited the Technology Laboratory of Uruguay, the Pasteur Institution of Research, and the Plan Ceibal.
The exchange provided the knowledge and know-how that assisted Bolivian experts with the development and completion of a National STI Plan, and:
- Enhanced knowledge and skills of regulatory and policy frameworks and inter-sectoral collaboration, including policy-making and monitoring and evaluation skills.
- Raised awareness of the importance of inter-sectoral work and collaboration; social and societal participation in the process; participation of the private sector as a transformative agent of the productivity matrix; and the importance of STI systems for economic development and productive transformation as well as challenges in achieving this goal and effective policies for overcoming challenges.
- Enhanced knowledge of public–private STI engagement highlighted by the Uruguayan technical study tour’s inclusion of an autonomous, independent institution – the National Agency for Research and Innovation – whose design still had broad sectoral buy-in and support.
- Enhanced networks exemplified by formal partnerships sharing knowledge, experiences, and advice with regards to STI policymaking among exchange participants and with key public officials and experts in the region.
"The knowledge exchange has been important, not only to verify the results of STI plans being implemented, but the contacts and commitments that enable the implementation of the STI Plan of Bolivia.” – Exchange Participant.
- The use of preparatory communications and videoconferencing helps participants better prepare and leads to a more focused and relevant exchange. Activities that were most useful were preparing lists of questions, identifying how the experience might apply to them, and learning about the programs in the countries to be visited prior to the exchange (i.e., through reading relevant documents).
- Videoconferences with knowledge providers prior to the exchange also help participants begin building the formal and informal networks with experts in the field that they can utilize far after the exchange.
- Ensure that information from this exchange (and others) are shared with other client countries and World Bank staff working on similar themes to minimize duplication efforts.
- Ensure that information is shared among government staff to build local capacity.
- Help participants think through, develop, and incorporate ways to maintain communication with the networks developed during the exchange.
The World Bank co-financed a consultant to travel with the Bolivian officials and assist with the development of its National STI Plan. Bank staff also participated in the study tour, traveling with the delegation to offer technical and logistical support. In addition, the Bank supported the participation of Bolivian STI officials in two WBI events (an e-course on Innovation Policy and a workshop on Monitoring and Evaluation for Innovation Policy, which took place in San Jose, Costa Rica, in mid-August) during which they developed a Logic Framework and Monitoring Plan that contributed to the national STI policy.
The knowledge-providing countries, Argentina and Uruguay, were each represented by experts involved in the execution of their respective STI systems. Support was offered by the Pólo Científico Tecnológico, Argentina, where workshops in that country were held. Specifically interacting with the exchange participants were:
- Ruth Ladenheim, Argentina’s Secretary of Planning and Policy in STI
- Fernando Peirano, Undersecretary of STI Policy
- Armando Bertranou, President of the National Agency for Science and Technology
- Veronica Suarez, International Cooperation Unit, National Agency for Research and Innovation
- Beatriz Prindi, Executive Manager of the National Agency for Research and Innovation
Bolivia was successful in utilizing knowledge and experiences gained from this exchange to inform and develop its National STI Plan. The country needs now to take steps that will help move from planning and design to implementation. The networks established on this exchange, including the expert from Argentina and Uruguay, will play a pivotal role in this process. A follow-up videoconference was also completed in March following the exchange, with Bolivia, Argentina, and Uruguayan representatives.
The Bolivian participants comprised six government officials, policymakers, and technical experts, representing the Ministry of Education and the Vice Ministry of Science and Technology. The Ministry is responsible for development of the country’s National STI Plan and the potential establishment of an independent STI agency. Expressing impact, one participant commented, "The knowledge exchange has been important, not only to verify the results of STI plans being implemented but the contacts and commitments that enable the implementation of the STI Plan of Bolivia.” (Report by Robert Sánchez Saravia, General Director of Science and Technology).
Bolivian Plan for Science, Technology, and Innovation (document in Spanish)
Bolivia and Argentina Exchange Experiences in Science and Technology (document in Spanish)